Patty Berg first gained a reputation as an athlete in her South Minneapolis neighborhood as the quarterback for the 50th Street Tigers, a neighborhood youth football team. The team included future Minnesota Gopher and college football coaching legend Bud Wilkinson.
Berg earned lasting fame in golf. She started playing golf at the age of 14 when her father, Herman, bought her a pass to play the city courses. Berg golf game developed quickly and she won 29 significant amateur tournaments, including the U.S. Amateur in 1938 at the age of 20.
She turned pro in 1940 and won the U.S. Women's Open in 1946. She was named Associated Press woman athlete of the year in 1938, 1943 and 1955.
In 1951, she was a founder and helped form the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Berg won 51 tournaments after the LPGA started in 1951.
After all those victories, she was more famous for traveling the country to promote women's golf. Wilson Sporting Goods started a Patty Berg line of golf clubs. She conducted clinics all over the country as a spokeswoman for the company. Her clinics included both lessons and trick shots.
Berg told the Star Tribune in 1999 how she approached the clinics, "If I can put a smile on an old man's face or make a young person laugh and appreciate the game of golf, then I feel I've given back something to the game."
Berg estimated that she conducted over 16,000 clinics in her lifetime. She was a member of Wilson's Advisory Staff for 66 years.
Warren Rebholz, a longtime executive director of the Minnesota Golf Association, told the Star Tribune in 1999, "Young, old and in-between, no Minnesotan has a better record in the game, or meant more to the game, than Patty."
Berg was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1951. In 1999, the Star Tribune ranked Berg No. 5 among the 100 most important Minnesota sports figures of the 20th century.